This is the constructed story of my great uncle, constructed because we have no photographs, no letters or diaries, just his military record and the associated histories that can be attached to them.
This year (2014) it is one hundred years since the start of World War One, the Great War, the war to end all wars. You can read the whys and wherefores elsewhere, there is no shortage of books and histories to be found, but Charley might only be remembered by a few, he lies in France, a long way from Goorambat, Victoria, Australia.
Charley Hall was an older brother of my maternal grandfather George Hall. Born in Goorambat, Victoria on 28 December 1889 Charley was the 7th child of Joseph and Sarah Hall. In all Charley had seven brothers and three sisters.
They all lived at Orange Grove, the family farm at Goorambat. The only photos I have are these two family groups taken around 1896 and 1905. In the photo on the left Charley is the young boy on the far left, on the right photo he is in the back row second from the left, George is the younger one in front of him.
Joseph & Sarah Hall and family at Orange Grove c1896
Joseph & Sarah Hall and family at Orange Grove c1905
Orange Grove 1917
Orange Grove 1984
March 1915, Enlistment.
On 4th August 1914 Britain and Australia declared war on Germany. On 19th August 1914, at the age of 19, my Grandfather George enlisted in the 4th Light Horse Regiment, after 2 months training at Broadmeadows he embarked to Egypt to serve at Gallipoli and later in Palestine.
His brother Charley enlisted on 29th March 1915. He was sent to “D” company of the 24th Battalion, the 6th Regiment AIF. After training at Broadmeadows on 8th May 1915 he embarked aboard the H.M.A.T. Euripides bound for Egypt.
As far as I know there are no family letters, photographs or diaries from Charley during his time in the army, as there are none from my Grandfather. All I have is a copy of his service record held at the National Archives of Australia. So with these and the entries in the “Official History of Australia In The War of 1914 – 18” by C. E. W. Bean, “The Red and White Diamond”, the official history of the 24th Battalion A. I. F. by Sgt. W. J .Harvey, M.M. and the resources of the Australian War Memorial and other online sources I’ve attempted to put together the story of his brief and tragic period in the AIF.
Charley’s enlistment form tells us his full name was Charles Benjamin Hall, a Natural Born British Subject, his age was 25 3/12, occupation farmer, he was not married. His next of kin was his eldest brother James S. Hall of Orange Grove. His service number was 887.
On his medical taken on 17th March 1915, his height was 5 foot 7 ½ inches, weight 159 lbs., chest measurement 34 37 ½ inches, complexion fair, eyes grey, hair brown and religious denomination C of E. He was officially appointed to D Coy 24th Battalion on 28th April 1915 at Broadmeadows, 10 days later, on 8th May, the entire battalion left the Broadmeadows Camp and embarked from Port Melbourne aboard the H.M.A.T. Euripides.
Port Melbourne, 8th May 1915
Troops aboard HMAT Euripides (A14)
Troops aboard HMAT Euripides (A14)
HMAT Euripides leaving Port Melbourne 8th May 1915
The Euripides history from Wikipedia
The ship was built in 1914 by Harland & Wolff of Belfast, and was originally named Euripides when she sailed for the Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line. She was 14,947 gross tons at the time and could make a top speed of 15 knots. Her shakedown cruise took place in June 1914, with her maiden voyage from London to Brisbane leaving on 1 July 1914. Two days after her arrival, she was taken over for Australian troop transport; the following year she returned to the UK-Australia run, but would continue transporting Australian troops through 1919, when she was overhauled at Belfast.
In 1929, the Euripides was transferred to the White Star Line, and in 1932 was again transferred, this time to the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line. The company had her re-fitted to 15,128 gross tons, and renamed the ship Akaroa, sailing her from Southampton, England to Wellington, New Zealand by way of the Panama Canal. The round journey could be taken for £112.
On 1 September 1939, two days before the declaration of war, under Captain William Horatio Hartman, she set sail for Auckland, arriving on 8 October. The voyage was an epic one and the passengers presented the Captain with a silver salver in memory of, "an epic and perilous voyage". Captain Hartmann was awarded the OBE in 1943. In 1945 she was again re-fitted, and continued the UK-NZ run. Finally, in May 1954, she was sent to the breakers at Antwerp. Her scrap value was £130,000.
June 1915, Egypt.
The troops did not know their destination and at the time there had been no reports on the battles at the Dardanelles, later to become known as Gallipoli. The Euripides travelled to Albany in Western Australia, onto Colombo in Ceylon, then to Suez through the canal to Port Said and finally on to Alexandria Egypt. After they disembarked a stiffing six hour train journey took them towards Cairo before a two hour march to their camp at Heliopolis. However Charley had fallen gravely ill on the journey.
24/6/15. Charley’s brother James received a cable informing him:
REPORT PRIVATE C. B. HALL DANGEROUSLY ILL HELIOPOLIS CEREBO SPINAL MENINGITIS WILL ADVISE UPON RECEIPT FURTHER PARTICULARS WILL CABLE FREE RECEIPT YOUR REQUEST. Signed Secretary Defence.
The next cable came on 6th July informing James Charley condition was still “dangerous”. However 6 days later on 12th July James was informed that Charley had been removed from the dangerously ill list and progressing favorably.
HMAT Euripides at Alexandria, Egypt.
Unloading the sick at Alexandria.
No.1 Australian General Hospital, Heliopolis, Cairo.
After he arrived in Egypt Charley would have been cared for at the No 1 Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis. This was the former luxurious Heliopolis Grand Hotel.
Interestingly today (2014) it is the Egyptian Presidential Palace.
September 1915, England.
Two and a half months later, on 24th September, Charley was admitted to hospital in Birmingham. His record just reports him as “sick”, and that the hospital was the 1st Southern General Hospital in Edgbaston, England. We don’t know what this illness was or how long he was there as the next date in his record is from 7th June 1916, nine months later, where he was embarking to France from the Monte Video Camp in Weymouth England.
The Monte Video Camp.
From The Somerset & Dorset Family History Society.
On the outbreak of war our town was a popular seaside resort made fashionable as a watering-place by King George the Third. It also had military connections with the nearby naval base of Portland and several army camps & forts from the Napoleonic period. Following the landing of Australian & New Zealand troops, the Anzacs, at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, casualties mounted rapidly and were initially transported to their base in Egypt, which was soon unable to cope, with wounded being sent to England. Here the troops found that there was no Australian base to which they could report once they had been discharged from hospital; what was needed urgently was a base in England where troops could be sent to convalesce. So on 31st May 1915 a command depot was set up at Monte Video House in Chickerell, some two miles from Weymouth. The local newspaper The Southern Times wrote: They are set down in a very pleasant place at Monte Video which is to be the base for the whole of the Australian, NZ and Cyprus contingents in this country, and the men who 'have been used to a thousand miles to stroll in' (as they say) appreciate the great expanse of country and the sweeping landscape & seascape views which their camp commands.
The depot was the joint Australian and New Zealand depot until the NZ depot opened at Hornchurch in Essex in April 1916. Weymouth then became the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) Command Depot No.2 which accommodated those men not expected to be fit for duty within six months, therefore, most of the Diggers repatriated as a result of wounds or sickness passed through Weymouth. During the years 1915-1919 over 120,000 Australian and New Zealand troops passed through Weymouth. In Spring & Summer, Weymouth Esplanade would be full of Anzac soldiers in wheelchairs, being wheeled along by their more able mates.
The first contingent of 200 wounded men arrived in the first week of June 1915, and two weeks later a group of local ladies organised a cream tea for the newcomers, followed by a concert party 'The Frolics' at the camp. So began the close connection that was to grow between the soldiers and the villagers of Chickerell. The ANZAC Memorial on Weymouth seafront commemorates the Australian and New Zealand troops who were accommodated in three camps in the town during WW1: Monte Video, Westham and Littlemoor. In Weymouth and Melcombe Regis Cemetery there are about eighty-six graves of those Anzacs who were never to return to their homelands. Also in memory of these troops, there a number of roads close to the camps named after Australian cities and states.
The hutted camp was built & first occupied by a unit of The Scots Regiment before the outbreak of war, and was expanded further after the Anzacs arrived. It is located at Australia Road in Chickerell, Dorset DT3 4DD and is now the Wyke Regis Territorial Army base.
Monte Video Camp, Weymouth England 1916
Monte Video Camp, Weymouth - today.
Private Charles Benjamin Hall, 887. D Company, 24th Battalion AIF.
1889 - 1916